Ukraine confirms boost in U.S. military aid, invitation to Biden, Harris during Blinken visit
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a press conference after a meeting with the two, Ukraine’s prime minister and foreign minister and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland earlier in the day.
While acknowledging that it was too early to discuss the matter in detail, Zelensky said that “speaking of the military support and financial support and technical assistance coming from the U.S. for Ukraine, yes, it is happening.
“It is unfolding,” he added, and expressed gratitude to both houses of the U.S. Congress and to Democrats and Republics alike for boosting military aid to his nation. Earlier this year the U.S. provided $125 million in defense assistance to Kiev, and currently the U.S. Senate is working on a bill that provides an additional $300 million.
Zelensky also confirmed that he has extended invitations to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to visit Ukraine this year on the 30th anniversary of its independence. Blinken thanked him for the invitation and said he’d relay it to Biden when he returns to Washington. The president, he was sure, would welcome the chance to return to a nation “where he spent much time in the past.”
The Ukrainian head of state also said he and the U.S. secretary of state had discussed security matters in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and “and we can see some joint action there.” In both cases he’s alluding to rivalry with Russia; in the case of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait that connects it to the Black Sea, the control of the strait has been a bone of contention between Kiev and Moscow for years, with an open clash between the two nations occurring there in 2018.
Blinken offered unambiguous confirmation of the Ukrainian position and an equally unqualified pledge of support in these blunt words:
“Let me just say also that we spent some time talking about the threat that Russia continues to pose to Ukraine. We’ve been watching this very, very closely and very, very carefully. We’re proud to have supported Ukraine in the face of years of Russian aggression and pressure, from the invasion of Crimea to hostilities in the Donbas. And of course, Ukraine was tested again just weeks ago this spring as Russia pushed more forces to Ukraine’s border than at any time since 2014 when it invaded. And I can tell you, Mr. President, that we stand strongly with you. Partners do as well. I heard the same thing when I was at NATO a couple of weeks ago. And we look to Russia to cease reckless and aggressive actions.”
Blinken also said Washington focused on the Ukraine-Russia conflict with allies and partners, and that the above indictment of Russian actions had been the “subject of extensive discussion at the most recent NATO meetings, and as well at the meetings of the G7 just in the last two days.”
There has also been talk in the Ukrainian press of Zelensky attending the NATO summit in Brussels in June. Zelensky at NATO headquarters and Biden in Ukraine would send the clearest message of confrontation to Russia that any actions could.